The Death of Major Sholto
We followed the Indian servant into the house. He stopped in front of an open door.
‘Come in, come in,’ said the voice.
We entered — Holmes, Miss Morstan and myself — and were astonished. The room in which we were standing was full of Indian paintings and ornaments. The carpet was soft and very thick. There were two large tiger-skins on the walls.
In the centre of the room stood a strange little man with a bald head. He was smiling, but he seemed very nervous.
‘My name,’ said the bald-headed man, ‘is Thaddeus Sholto. You are Miss Morstan, of course. And these two gentlemen…?’
‘This is Mr Sherlock Holmes and this is Doctor Watson.’
‘A doctor!’ cried Thaddeus Sholto excitedly. ‘Oh, please could you listen to my heart? I am very worried about my heart.’
I listened to his heart beating. But I could hear nothing wrong with it.
‘There is nothing wrong with your heart,’ I told him.
‘I’m so glad,’ said Thaddeus Sholto. ‘Miss Morstan, your father had a very weak heart. If his heart had been stronger, he would have been alive today.’
Miss Morstan sat down and her face turned very white.
‘I knew that he was dead,’ she said. There were tears in her eyes.
I was very angry with Thaddeus Sholto. He did not notice how much he had upset Miss Morstan.
‘Please tell us why we have been brought here,’ said Miss Morstan. So Thaddeus Sholto began his strange story and we listened.
‘My father,’ Sholto said, ‘was Major Sholto of the Indian Army. He retired from the army about eleven years ago. He bought a house in North London. He called the house Pondicherry Lodge. My brother, Bartholomew, and I were his only children. We knew that Captain Morstan — Miss Morstan’s father — and our father had been very good friends in India. When we heard that Captain Morstan had disappeared, we were very upset. My brother, Bartholomew, and I also knew that our father was afraid of something. He never went out alone. He often spoke about a man with a wooden leg who followed him. He seemed very afraid of this man.’
‘Did he tell you why he was afraid?’ asked Holmes.
‘No, he didn’t,’ Thaddeus Sholto replied. Then he continued with his story.
‘One day in 1882, our father received a letter from India. This letter upset him very much. He became ill. Every day he grew weaker. At last, he was dying. He asked to see me and my brother, Bartholomew. We went to his room. He told us to lock the door and come over to the bed. Then he held our hands and spoke to us. He said that he wanted to tell us the truth about Captain Morstan’s death. He was the only person who knew this terrible secret.
‘When Father was in India with Captain Morstan, they found a great treasure. It was called the Great Agra Treasure. The jewels in this treasure were worth more than a million pounds. Father brought the Agra Treasure back to England. Morstan followed him and came at once to the house to ask for his share. But the treasure had made Father greedy. He did not want to give any of it to Morstan. He wanted to keep it all for himself. Morstan became very angry. They had a terrible argument. Father knew that Morstan’s heart was weak. Suddenly, the color of Morstan’s face changed. Father saw at once that Morstan was dead. He did not know what to do. He had not killed Morstan. But he was afraid that people would believe that he had killed Morstan. He decided to say nothing. He hid the body and he also hid the Great Agra Treasure.
‘Soon the news of Morstan’s disappearance spread through London. Only our father knew the terrible truth. He told us as he was dying that he had been a wicked and greedy man. He said that he had acted very wrongly. But that he had paid for his crime. The Agra Treasure never brought him happiness — only fear and guilt. Then he told us that Captain Morstan had a daughter called Mary. He asked us to listen carefully. Then he began to tell us where he had hidden the treasure. At that moment a terrible change came over our father’s face. He pointed at the window and cried out in a voice full of fear, «Keep him out! Keep him out!»
‘My brother and I stared at the window. We saw a horrid face looking in through the window. It was wild and had a black beard and cruel eyes. We rushed to the window but the man had gone. When we went back to the bed, Father was dead.’
‘What did you do then?’ asked Holmes.
‘We ran out into the garden,’ replied Sholto. ‘We looked everywhere, but we found nothing. In the morning, we went to our father’s room. We found that someone had been in the room during the night. There was a piece of paper on the bed beside my father’s body. And on this paper some words were written. These words were «The Sign of Four».’